Hospitalist Questions Hospital-Acquired Infections

What are the ways to prevent hospital borne infections in a ventilator patient?

My father has been on a ventilator for the past 10 days for a respiratory disease. He is afraid of hospital borne infections. What can be done to keep them away? He feels helpless.

4 Answers

Keeping the head of the bed at 30 degrees, they do mouth cleanses daily in vented patients
This is a tough one. He is approaching the time where he should be considered for tracheostomy tube placement if he is unable to be weaned from the ventilator. Oral care helps and everyone involved in the care or in the room should be washing their hands. Suctioning out secretions helps but in reality ventilator associated pneumonia is frequently unavoidable and frustrating for family and staff.

Jack Stephens, MD
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Good evening

Unfortunately there is only a few things you guys can do to minimize risk of infection. However the nursing staff, physicians and any staff member working with your father have a responsibility to keep washing their hands and keeping areas sterile. As for you all, definitely wash your hands and wear gowns and or gloves when you are around your father (and when you enter or leave his room wash your hands always). I sincerely hope your father will recover soon. Talk to the nurses and they will guide you and communicate with them about your concerns.

Sophia Rahman, MD
The first thing to do is make sure anyone who is sick doesn’t enter the room. There is always a risk of acquiring an infection while on a ventilator. The staff works hard to make sure the vent itself is as clean as possible. Also, avoiding unnecessary antibiotics is obviously a prudent preventative measure since it can lead to antibiotic resistant infects. Finally, your doctor will monitor him closely with labs and chest X-rays to prevent any new infection from getting worse. Finally and probably most importantly is that all people who come in contact with him must wash their hands before and after touching him to avoid contamination and the passing of germs to him.